His Worship the Sheriff of Chester, Councillor John Boughton, and His Lady, Mrs Eleanor Boughton, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you very much for inviting me to this heart-warming event held in this most historical city of Chester.
On August 6, 1945 an atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima, and 200,000 citizens lost their precious lives. A few days later, another bomb was dropped over Nagasaki, claiming a further 80,000 lives. Although nearly 60 years have passed since then, the enormity and sheer horror of those events still reverberate around the world. I am very impressed by the dedication the Chester Meeting of Friends has shown for nearly a quarter of a century to remembering the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, culminating in the ceremony that is about to take place.
Since the end of World War II, Japan has pursued peace, security and prosperity. Japan's post-war foreign policy has been based upon what has come to be known as the "peace constitution", whereby Japan renounces war as a sovereign right of the nation and commits itself to not maintaining armed forces. Accordingly, Japan has achieved its own security with a minimum self-defence capability, supplemented by the deterrent capability provided by the United States based upon the Japan-US Security Treaty. At the same time, Japan has directed its efforts towards world peace and stability through non-military means while strengthening its economic competitiveness. Japan's role in this regard differs from that of the United Kingdom, and is in fact unique. It is deeply rooted in the strong belief, widely shared by the Japanese people based upon their own experience, that the tragedy of war should never be repeated.
The provision of Official Development Assistance (ODA) has long been one of Japan's main foreign policy tools. Through such means Japan has sought to alleviate poverty by meeting the basic human needs of people in developing countries and has contributed to human resource development and institution building. With ODA, Japan has also helped developing countries build and improve their industrial and social infrastructure, such as roads, railways, bridges, ports and airports. In this way Japan helped a number of Asian countries to take off economically in the 1970s and '80s. In this process trade, investment and business links have played an important role in combination with ODA, benefiting both Japan and its partners. Japan's role in the economic advancement of developing countries is based on its belief that stability in the Third World contributes to world peace and prosperity.
On the other hand, due to the constraints imposed by the constitution as well as policy considerations, Japan's military role has been limited. It was in the early 1990s that Japan for the first time sent Self Defence Force troops overseas for purposes other than training. They were the Engineering Corps of the Ground Self Defence Force, which assisted in the reconstruction of post-conflict Cambodia under the authority of the United Nations. This set the pattern for the international role of Self Defence Force personnel thereafter. So far such missions have served in Mozambique, Rwanda, East Timor and the Golan Heights. Japan also maintains about 600 SDF personnel in Samawa, Iraq, where they are assisting in reconstruction work in such areas as water supply and medical advisory services. In addition, Japanese Self Defence Force vessels have refuelled naval ships of the multinational forces for Afghanistan conducting maritime patrols in the Indian Ocean. As these examples show, the distinguishing aspect of Japan's role has been the stipulation that its personnel engage only in non-combat operations such as logistical support and reconstruction assistance.
Despite the non-combat role of our personnel, their presence in volatile parts of the world is not without risk. This fact was brought home to us grimly when, almost exactly a year ago today, the Embassy's Katsuhiko Oku and a colleague, stationed in Iraq to identify reconstruction projects in which Japan was to play a role, sacrificed their lives in the course of duty.
Weapons exports have also been regulated in line with Japan's unique post-war policy. As a principle of national policy, Japan abstains from exporting to any country either weapons themselves or military technology.
As for weapons of mass destruction, Japanese people, whose country is the only one in the world to have suffered devastation caused by nuclear weapons, have special feelings on this issue. Japan pursues the ultimate aim of the abolition of nuclear weapons, which will eventually result in a more peaceful and stable world. At the same time, however, Japan advocates a realistic and pragmatic approach, recognising the need to move in that direction step by step, without putting security at risk.
Japan's own nuclear policy is predicated on the three-pronged principle of not possessing, not producing and not permitting the introduction into Japan of nuclear weapons. Nuclear power is used in Japan for peaceful purposes only. Our nuclear activities are subject to IAEA inspections, and Japan has an exemplary record spanning several decades. Japan has played an energetic role in international efforts to combat nuclear proliferation and has been working closely with the UK, the US and other major partners with regard to the particular cases of Iran and North Korea.
In the United Nations, every year Japan submits to the General Assembly a draft resolution on nuclear disarmament, which has acquired broad support in the international community. Moreover, Japan is encouraging all states to work towards the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).
I have talked so far about Japan's commitment to peace as shaped by its historical experience. Let me also refer to other ways in which Japan shows its determination to rise above the dreadful legacy of war.
It cannot be denied that many people who took part in that conflict have continued to relive its horrors over the ensuing years. This applies to former British prisoners of war and civilian detainees. Japan, spurred by a passionate devotion to peace and reconciliation, has done its best to heal lingering wounds. For instance, in 1995 it launched the "Peace, Friendship and Exchange Initiative", one result of which was the Pacific Venture scheme, now officially in its final year. This programme was set up to enable the grandchildren of former PoWs to visit Japan, stay with Japanese families and form ties of friendship that will replace negative preconceptions and be passed down through the generations. About 360 people have visited Japan for two weeks under this programme, while 20 students have stayed there for five months. The Pacific Venture has played a significant role in bringing the Japanese and British peoples together, facilitating their deeper mutual understanding.
Meanwhile, every summer the Embassy holds a "Summer Reunion for Peace and Friendship" reception. This year there were over 200 guests, including many former prison camp inmates and their families. Through such initiatives, the seeds of reconciliation have been sown and have taken root gradually but steadily. This trend cannot but strengthen the genuine and ever-growing global partnership between our two countries, which were once enemies but are now working together, coordinating policies and collaborating closely for world peace and stability, from the Korean peninsula to the African continent.
Thus, inspired by the noble efforts of others to foster peace and harmony, let us all resolve, with the planting of this tree, to redouble our efforts to this end.